Abraham Lincoln reference site established 2005

Lincoln Prize Winners

Winning Books about Abraham Lincoln

The $50,000 Lincoln Prize, established in 1990, is awarded each year for "the finest scholarly work in English on Abraham Lincoln, or the American Civil War soldier, or a subject relating to their era."

The books listed on this page are Lincoln Prize winners, finalists, and honorable mentions whose subject is Abraham Lincoln (not the Civil War in general or a subject relating to Lincoln's times). Consequently, this is not a comprehensive list of Lincoln Prize winners.


2015 Winner

Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion
Harold Holzer
Simon & Schuster, 2014
768 pages

In Lincoln and the Power of the Press, Holzer examines Abraham Lincoln’s lifelong relationship with the press, particularly with the powerful and influential New York editors James Gordon Bennett, Horace Greeley, and Henry J. Raymond, and explores how, in the age of Lincoln, the press and politics often functioned in tandem as a single, tightly organized entity. He emphasizes the war for public opinion that took place between Lincoln and his Democratic Party rivals over thirty years.


2014 Winner

Writing the Gettysburg Address
Martin P. Johnson
University Press of Kansas, 2013
366 pages

Martin Johnson's Writing the Gettysburg Address illuminates a speech, a man, and a moment in history that we thought we knew. Johnson guides readers on Lincoln's emotional and intellectual journey to the speaker's platform.


2012 Winner

Lincoln and the Border States: Preserving the Union
William C. Harris
University Press of Kansas, 2011
430 pages

James McPherson says, "In this important new study, Harris examines Lincoln's sometimes rocky relations with the border states and shows with great precision how Lincoln managed to keep the border states mostly on his side and get slavery abolished therein as well."

By describing Lincoln's rise from obscurity to the presidency, William Harris shows that Lincoln's road to political success was far from easy--and that his reaction to events wasn't always wise or his racial attitudes free of prejudice. Although most scholars have labeled Lincoln a moderate, Harris reveals that he was by his own admission a conservative who revered the Founders and advocated "adherence to the old and tried." By emphasizing the conservative bent that guided Lincoln's political evolution--his background as a Henry Clay Whig, his rural ties, his cautious nature, and the racial and political realities of central Illinois—Harris provides fresh insight into Lincoln's political ideas and activities and portrays him as morally opposed to slavery but fundamentally conservative in his political strategy against it.


2011 Winner

The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery
Eric Foner
W.W. Norton & Company, 2010
448 pages

A definitive account of Lincoln's lifelong engagement with the nation's critical issue: American slavery. "Lincoln is no paragon in Foner's searching portrait, but something more essential--a politician with an open mind and a restless conscience," says Publisher's Weekly.

The Fiery Trial was also the Pulitzer Prize winner in 2011.


2010 Winner

Abraham Lincoln: A Life
Michael Burlingame
The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008
2024 pages in two volumes

The book was 30 years in the making. Abraham Lincoln: A Life is a comprehensive review of Lincoln's life but focuses on Abraham Lincoln's leadership abilities.

"Michael Burlingame's Abraham Lincoln: A Life is meticulously researched and provides a multi-faceted portrait of a man who grew into greatness," said Janet Morgan Riggs, president of Gettysburg College. "Though its length may be intimidating to some, Burlingame's narrative is accessible and engaging. No one who reads this powerful work will ever look at Lincoln quite the same way again," Riggs said.

Michael Burlingame is the Chancellor Naomi B. Lynn Distinguished Chair of Lincoln Studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Like most manuscripts, Michael Burlingame's manuscript had to be edited to a shorter length. With permission of Burlingame, you can see the original, unedited manuscript of Abraham Lincoln: A Life at the Lincoln Studies Center page at Knox College.



2009 Winners

Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief
James McPherson
Penguin Press, 2008
384 pages

Tried by War examines Abraham Lincoln in his role as Commander-in-Chief. A Barnes & Noble reviewer says McPherson "lists five areas in which a commander in chief would have to function--'policy, national strategy, military strategy, operations, and tactics'--and for the rest of the book proceeds to flesh out these opaque abstractions, not topic by topic as a lawyer might but year by bloody year, with what amounts to a compelling and genuinely dynamic short history of Lincoln at war."

James McPherson is emeritus professor of history at Princeton University, the school from which he earned his Ph.D. Among several of his literary acclaims are a Pulitzer Prize for Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era and the Lincoln Prize for For Cause and Comrades.



Lincoln and His Admirals
Craig Symonds
Oxford University Press, 2008
448 pages

Lincoln and His Admirals is an account of Abraham Lincoln and his role as Commander-in-Chief with the U.S. Navy, and the players and personalities involved. Disputes between Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles and Secretary of State William Seward are documented, showing both sides of the issues. Though most major battles were fought on land, Symonds shows out the dominance of the Union Navy influenced the actions of the Civil War.

Craig Symonds was a U.S. Navy officer in the 1970s. In 1976, he came to the U.S. Naval Academy, where he taught naval history and Civil War history for 30 years. He was named teacher of the Year in 1988, and the Researcher of the Year in 1998, the first person ever to win both awards. Symonds is Professor Emeritus at the United States Naval Academy and the author of 12 books.


2009 Honorable Mention

President Lincoln: The Duty of a Statesman
William Lee Miller
Knopf, 2008
512 pages

William Lee Miller looks at Abraham Lincoln's moral and intellectual life while in the White House in President Lincoln: The Duty of a Statesman. He examines the political savvy with which Lincoln led the country's slaves to emancipation. The title of the book eludes to Lincoln's frequent references to his duty to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." Duty of a Statesman can be thought of as a companion book to Miller's earlier work, Lincoln's Virtues: An Ethical Biography.

Miller received his Ph.D. in social ethics from Yale. He taught at Yale, Smith College, and Indiana University. In 1999, he retired from the University of Virginia as Commonwealth Professor, and the Thomas C. Sorensen Professor of Political and Social Thought.


2008 Winner

The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics
James Oakes
W. W. Norton, 2007
320 pages

James Oakes shows how Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, once seeming so far apart, came much closer in action as they both worked in their own way to eventually bring slavery to an end. Douglass originally thought Lincoln was not nearly quick enough to bring about abolition, but Oakes exposes the political and military realities that Lincoln faced and explores whether his words which we would now call racist were from his heart or part of the strategy required to overcome those realities.

Garry Wills (author of Lincoln at Gettysburg, 1993 Pulitzer Prize finalist) says, "Oakes brilliantly follows the choreography by which Lincoln and Douglass, 'both uncommonly intelligent,' moved from a position of mutual incomprehension to to one of mutual admiration and respect, one great man taking the measure of another great man."


2007 Winner

Lincoln's Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words
Douglas L. Wilson
Knopf, 2006
352 pages

In Lincoln's Sword, Wilson studies Abraham Lincoln multiple-draft approach to writing. The Gettysburg Address is among Lincoln's most eloquent speeches. Douglas Wilson analyzes it as well as Lincoln's farewell speech at Springfield, the First Inaugural, the July 4, 1861, message to Congress, and the Emancipation Proclamation. Though Wilson breaks no new ground with this work, it does provide an insightful look into Lincoln's writing process.

Douglas L. Wilson is codirector of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. He is the author of Honor's Voice: The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln (1999 Lincoln Prize winner).



2006 Winner

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Simon & Schuster, 2005
944 pages

Team of Rivals is one of those books that everyone assumes you've read if you're a Lincoln fan. The book was 10 years in the making. In it, Doris Kearns Goodwin provides an overview of the events that lead up to the 1860 election, alternating between the lives of Abraham Lincoln and several of his rivals for the Republican nomination, as well as other key players in the political arena. Team of Rivals examines the cabinet that Abraham Lincoln put together, focusing on the rationale Lincoln used for assembling such a cabinet of rivals, and focusing on four of these men in particular: Edwin M. Stanton, Salmon P. Chase, William H. Seward, Edward Bates.

Doris Kearns Goodwin has written many historical biographies, her first being about Lyndon Johnson, with whom she spent a great deal of time. She won the Pulitzer Prize for No Ordinary Time, a look at FDR.


2005 Winner

Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America
Allen C. Guelzo
Simon & Schuster, 2004
352 pages

Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation is a study of that legal document and the events that led up to the final Emancipation Proclamation issued in January, 1863, which freed slaves in the states then in rebellion. Lincoln approached the subject of emancipation cautiously, but Guelzo shows that Lincoln was sincerely concerned with the status of black Americans.

Allen C. Guelzo is the Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College. He is the author of Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President (2000 Lincoln Prize winner).


2005 Second Place

Lincoln at Cooper Union: The Speech That Made Abraham Lincoln President
Harold Holzer
Simon & Schuster, 2004
352 pages

In this book, Holzer examines the Cooper Union Address, which Abraham Lincoln gave in New York City in 1860. The speech is regarded as the single biggest event contributing to Lincoln's nomination to the presidency. Holzer also spends a bit of time telling of how Lincoln visited Mathew Brady's studio while in New York, where the picture of Abraham Lincoln used on the cover of the book was taken.

Harold Holzer, who has written numerous books about Abraham Lincoln, serves as chairman of The Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation, successor organization to the United States Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, which he co-chaired from 2001–2010. He also serves as Senior Vice President for External Affairs at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.



2004 Winner

Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power
Richard J. Carwardine
Knopf, First American Edition, 2006
416 pages

Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power (published first in paperback) looks at both the character traits of Lincoln and the circumstances of his times that culminated in Abraham Lincoln's public career, leading up to the presidential election of 1860, and during his presidency. Lincoln said, "I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that have events have controlled me." Unlike David Herbert Donald (Lincoln, 1996 Lincoln Prize winner), Carwardine believes that was not the full truth and shows how Lincoln was adept at working the political machine and helped shaped events. The book also describes the development of Lincoln's religious beliefs. Says Carwardine, "Having argued in Evangelicals and Politics in Antebellum America that it is impossible wholly to fathom the politics of the era without giving serious attention to religious ideas and constituencies, I was bound to think in the same way about public sentiment in Illinois, and in the wartime Union."

Richard J. Carwardine has been President of Corpus Christi College at Oxford since January 2010. As the Ochs-Oakes Senior Scholar in American History at Queen's College, he worked on a doctoral study of American and British nineteenth-century religious revivalism. In 2002, he was elected Rhodes Professor of American History at Oxford University.


2002 Honorable Mention

The Young Eagle: The Rise of Abraham Lincoln
Kenneth J. Winkle
Taylor Trade Publishing, 2001
400 pages

In The Young Eagle, Winkle takes a fresh approach at examining Lincoln's life. Instead of claiming that events such as the death of Lincoln's mother at an early age had a profound impact on Lincoln, Winkle shows that the loss of one's mother at an early age was not uncommon at that time. He also looks at Abraham Lincoln's relationship with his father, and with his wife Mary Todd Lincoln, in light of the social context and cultural changes happening at that time. The Young Eagle is not only an Abraham Lincoln biography, but also a study in family history and social/community history of that era.

Kenneth J. Winkle earned his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is Professor of History and Chair of the History Department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


2000 Winner

Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President
Allen C. Guelzo
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999
516 pages

The book focuses on the redemptive act of emancipation. It looks at Abraham Lincoln as a philosophical thinker and examines Lincoln's moral and religious beliefs in that regard. These are put in context with the cultural beliefs and behaviors of the 19th century. Guelzo establishes Lincoln political identity as a Whig, emphasizing virtue, morality, and hard work. Guelzo also establishes Lincoln's belief that he was an instrument for doing God's will, looking at Providential themes in the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural Address.

Allen C. Guelzo is the Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College. He is the author of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America (2005 Lincoln Prize winner).


1999 Winner

Honor's Voice: The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln
Douglas L. Wilson
Knopf, 1998
383 pages

In Honor's Voice, Wilson explores the New Salem and Springfield years. He documents the transformation as a young unsuccessful man in 1831, to a well-respected lawyer and politician by 1842. The transformation was anything but smooth: Lincoln seriously stumbled with self-doubt. He gives attention to Abraham Lincoln's tumultuous courtship with Mary Todd, who became his wife on November 4, 1842.

Douglas L. Wilson is codirector of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. He is the author of Lincoln's Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words (2007 Lincoln Prize winner).


1998 Second Place

With Charity for All: Lincoln and the Restoration of the Union
William C. Harris
University Press of Kentucky, 1997
354 pages

Reconstruction during the Lincoln administration is the subject of With Charity for All. Harris documents the efforts of Abraham Lincoln to restore rebellious states into the Union, including Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, Virginia, and North Carolina. He argues that though Lincoln changed his policies over time and moved closer to the Radical Republicans, to think that he began to adopt their principles is erroneous.

David Herbert Donald, author of Lincoln (1996 Lincoln Prize winner) says, "With Charity for All offers a powerful argument for the continuity of Lincoln's generous approach to Reconstruction, and it provides a wealth of information showing how the president's mind worked. I only wish I had had this first-rate book before me when I was writing my Lincoln biography."


1997 Winner

Don Fehrenbacher (who passed away later in the same year), Lifetime Achievement with special recognition of these books:

Prelude to Greatness: Lincoln in the 1850's
Stanford University Press, 1962
220 pages

The Dred Scott Case: Its Significance in American Law and Politics
Oxford University Press, 1978
741 pages


Prelude to Greatness: Lincoln in the 1850's is "a penetrating study of Lincoln's career and character in the decades preceding his election as president." It is more a collection of essays than a biographical approach to Lincoln in that period. Fehrenbacher shows that Lincoln did in fact exhibit much promise of greatness and did not simply luck into the presidency because of some shrewd politicking by his supporters at the Republican Convention or a split in the Democratic ticket.

The Dred Scott Case: Its Significance in American Law and Politics isn't a book specifically about Abraham Lincoln, but the Supreme Court decision (the most famous example of judicial failure) is one which cross the lines of Lincoln's moral principles and profoundly influenced Lincoln's politics. Though the book has over 600 pages of text (100 pages of notes), Fehrenbacher takes an extraordinarily complex legal case and presents it in a very readable and captivating manner. It is the definitive study of the Dred Scott case, exposing the nuances of the concurring and dissenting opinions, and examining how the case contributed to the outbreak of the Civil War. The Dred Scott Case also won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1979.

Fehrenbacher also won the Pulitzer Prize for his work on a book by David Potter, a close departmental colleague at Stanford. During his illness, Potter asked Fehrenbacher to finish his history of the coming of the Civil War. Fehrenbacher edited it and wrote the last two chapters, published in 1976 as The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861.

Don E. FahrenbacherDon E. Fehrenbacher was the William R. Coe Professor Emeritus of History and American Studies at Stanford University. He held the Harmsorth Professorship at Oxford University and spent a year teaching and the College of William and Mary. At the time of his death, he was among the top two or three Lincoln scholars in the nation. He was the author of numerous books. His works included more than 40 articles, a number of which appeared in his Lincoln in Text and Context (1987).

He once said about Gore Vidal's controversial Lincoln, "I would be the first to concede that a novel can be all mixed up about the facts, could rearrange the facts, and still somehow capture in a holistic way the true character or the true personality of the individual." ...Fiction and nonfiction "are arbitrary categories. On the one hand, most fiction is written about the real world, that is why so many first novels are quasi-autobiographies. On the other hand, there is a fictional element in all historical narrative, and even in analytical writing there is a point beyond which inference takes on the quality of fiction. Neither the historical Lincoln nor the fictional Lincoln is the totally 'real Lincoln.' Both are constructs of factual materials shaped and cemented with imagination."




1996 Winner

David Herbert Donald
Simon & Schuster, 1995
714 pages

Lincoln is an important, comprehensive biography about Abraham Lincoln that provides an in-depth study of Lincoln: what he knew, when he knew it, and why he did what he did. The book examines the humanity of Lincoln, providing deep insight into his character. "I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me," Lincoln famously said. Unlike Richard Carwardine (Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power, 2004 Lincoln Prize winner), Donald takes these words as the credo of Lincoln's life, believing the passivity of Lincoln's nature to be the theme of his life.

David Herbert Donald earned his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois under the leading Lincoln scholar at the time, James G. Randall. His dissertation on William Herndon became his first book: Lincoln's Herndon. Specializing in the Civil War and Reconstruction periods, Donald taught at numerous universities including Columbia, Princeton, and Harvard. He was the Charles Warren Professor Emeritus of American History at Harvard University.


1995 Winner

The Presidency of Abraham Lincoln
Phillip Shaw Paludan
University Press of Kansas, 1994
388 pages

Abraham Lincoln had two major accomplishments during his presidency: he freed the saves and he saved the Union. This is what Paludan discusses in his book, The Presidency of Abraham Lincoln. He was morally opposed to slavery, but refused to run on an abolitionist platform. From assembling his cabinet to pushing the limits of the Constitution, Paludan shows how Lincoln adeptly managed politics and public sentiment to accomplish his goals.

Phillip Shaw Paludan taught at the University of Kansas for over 30 years. He was also a professor at the University of Illinois, Springfield, where in 2001, he was named Distinguished Chair in Lincoln Studies.


1994 Finalist

The Shadows Rise: Abraham Lincoln and the Ann Rutledge Legend
John Evangelist Walsh
University of Illinois Press, 1993
187 pages

The Shadows Rise is a book that reexamines the relationship of Ann Rutledge and Abraham Lincoln. Walsh argues that the relationship was not a myth and that Ann Rutledge's death from typhoid had a profound effect on Lincoln. These arguments are convincing to many who read the book, but are primarily based on William Herndon's writings, whose truth is questioned by many historians.

John Evangelist Walsh has written more than 20 books, including Moonlight: Abraham Lincoln and the Almanac Trial.


1991 Finalist

The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties
Mark E. Neely, Jr.
Oxford University Press
304 pages

The Fate of Liberty is a very in-depth look at how the policies of the Lincoln administration affected civil liberties in the United States. For example, Neely explores the fact that Lincoln is the only President to have suspended the writ of habeas corpus. He calls this act a well-intentioned attempt to deal with unforeseen events, including the threat to Washington, the occupation of hostile Confederate territory, and the outcry in the North against the first draft in U.S. history.

Though this book is less about Abraham Lincoln than the others listed on this page, it is an area that any Lincoln scholar will want to study because the debate over Lincoln's policies related to civil liberties and his interpretation of the role of Commander-in-Chief rages even today.

Mark E. Neely, Jr. received his Ph.D. in history from Yale. He is the McCabe Greer Professor in the American Civil War Era at Penn State University. He directed the Lincoln Museum at Ft. Wayne and was editor of Lincoln Lore (published by the Lincoln Museum) from 1972 to 1992.

The Fate of Liberty also won the Pulitzer Prize for History, 1992.





"Abraham Lincoln: A Life--original manuscript," Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College, http://www.knox.edu/Academics/Distinctive-Programs/Lincoln-Studies-Center/Burlingame-Abraham-Lincoln-A-Life.html

Barnes & Noble, "Abraham Lincoln: A Life Editorial Review," http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Tried-by-War/James-M-McPherson/e/9781594201912#TABS.

Degler, Carl N., et. al. "Memorial Resolution: Don E. Fehrenbacher (1920-1997)," Stanford University, 1998, http://histsoc.stanford.edu/pdfmem/FehrenbacherD.pdf.

Emerson, Jason. "Interview with Richard L. Carwardine: About Lincoln," History News Network, June 28, 2004, accessed at http://hnn.us/articles/5650.html.

Oakes, James, The Radical and the Republican, New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2007, page ii.

"Pulitzer Prize-Winning History Professor Don E. Fehrenbacher Dies," Stanford News Release, Stanford University, December 16, 1997, http://news.stanford.edu/pr/97/971216fehr.html

"Richard Carwardine, President," Corpus Christi College Oxford, 2009, http://www.ccc.ox.ac.uk/Fellows/f/37/.

"Two volume biography of Abraham Lincoln wins 2010 Lincoln Prize," Gettysburg College, http://www.gettysburg.edu/civilwar/prizes_andscholarships/lincoln_prize/


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